Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tonight's debate

It’s interesting to me that among the usual suspects, the Burgh Report, the Comet, Democrats for DeSantis, 2 Political Junkies, Matt H and Char, no one is saying anything about the debate tonight (as of 10:30). There is a collective deafening silence. Have we already reached debate fatigue? There is another coming, you know, Thursday.

One thing I think is worth mentioning. It was widely predicted, as I recall, that the Mayor would try to avoid debating DeSantis. Particularly there were predictions that the first two debates would be it (again, as I remember it). Certainly the Mayor has come through on debate participation, and deserves due credit.

Another point worth mentioning is that the assumption was the DeSantis would wipe the floor with the boy Mayor in the debates. Instead the Mayor has … (ahem) held his own and probably even beaten Desantis on style points. I still believe DeSantis is winning the war of content, if only just. But that’s a thing. Mark DeSantis has been a real candidate for less than a hundred days. Meeting sympathetic bloggers is no substitute for real campaigning. Working with employees (whom you can fire, but also who share a purpose with you) is no substitute for talking to voters you have to persuade. I am sure Desantis has made his share of presentations designed to persuade, but we expect something different from politicians than from businessmen. We expect politicians to be someone we can relate to, someone who wants to make us feel good about ourselves, and bad about the other guy.

But it is meaningless for me to say that DeSantis should be cut a break because he is in unfamiliar territory. It was up to him to demonstrate his commitment by getting out early to campaign. He chose to show character, but to the wrong audience (I guess wrapping up his business with his company as quickly as he could).

DeSantis has used the word humility a couple of times in the debate, as in what the Mayor lacks. It’s not a word I use much, if ever, in fact, it makes me a little uncomfortable for no apparent reason. I recognize that politicians, by necessity, usually have outsized egos and by extension thicker skins. It’s not clear with the Mayor; with his (extensive) use of the royal/editorial “we”, he seems to have the ego (why does he say “our administration” instead of “my administration”?). But I suspect the whole city has gotten a thinner skin impression from the Mayor.

The Mayor actually made a pretty crucial admission tonight. He said he had a sense he could keep a lot of his activities private when he started the job, but realizes now that isn’t so. As big as that admission is, the Mayor went on to say to Ken Rice something about the two of them agreeing to disagree about the significance of aspects of the Mayor’s behavior. That’s a little like a criminal telling a cop they should agree to disagree about the criminal’s little breaking and entering behavior. I personally believe the Mayor should follow what is in the ethics code as it is written, and if that means some sacrifice in not going to Steelers or Penguins games, you can watch them on TV like the rest of us. Because if I were Danny Schiff, I would want to see the Mayor’s credit card statements to make sure he hasn’t violated guidelines.

The terms I would use instead of humility are words like apologize and take responsibility. The Mayor has done some of that, but not for every incident, and quite frankly the Mayor gives off a simmering resentment and sense of impatience when he has been questioned about incidents. It is, again frankly, the resentment a bully gives off when caught bullying a smaller kid. If you would just see the world through my eyes, you would understand why you shouldn’t ask that question. And I shouldn’t have to explain.

Which is the whole point, I guess. Experienced politicians or natural politicians usually have the knack of understanding other people’s point of view, and slipping into an easy dialogue where they acknowledge a mistake and tell the other person they know how they were hurt and then the politician apologizes (and asks for their vote). I think even Mark DeSantis, in his hundred day career as a politician, understands that. I don’t think the Mayor does, and possibly never will.

One more quick point. I can’t remember if it was in response to Jon Delano’s question about local political experience, but as Mark DeSantis went through his resume, 14 years in DC in politics, 10 years in Pittsburgh as a businessman/entrepreneur, it occurred to me the man has been working almost as long as the Mayor has been alive. And has three more educational degrees than the Mayor.


Schultz said...

Just finished watching the debate on kdka.com. I thought it went well but as Jon Delano said DeSantis didn't deliver a "knockout punch."

Let's face it. Luke is a robot. Did you notice the point where he even skipped like a robot? "Significant, Significant....." And then he looked like a deer in headlights when he thought he was out of time. DeSantis can score big points when he throws Ravenstahl off his talking points, as he did in the last debate when DeSantis schooled him on getting creative with the non-profit contributions.

Char said...

I watched the debate then ran out to do my "Man On The Street" poll.

I've had more than my fill of Ravenstahl, so its hard for me to objectively say how well he did. To my eye and ear ..... he did an average job ....as did DeSantis. Neither blew it, neither hit it out of the park.

I know common wisdom normally says (especially around here) the race is the incumbent’s to lose and the challenger’s to win. And if DeSantis didn’t hit it out of the park, then by default DeSantis lost.

Again, maybe I’m no longer objective, but maybe the rule is not so cut and dry this time. In fact, since Ravenstahl has done nothing so far but show a lack of judgment and ethics ……Maybe it is he, not the challenger, who needs to knock the ball out of the park to redeem himself and I don’t think he did.

Put another way ….. Was either performance strong enough to win over someone truly undecided? I don’t think so. But Ravenstahl has pissed off, horrified, freaked out a huge number of people with his shenanigans. In my wanderings around the city, I’m hearing from more and more little old ladies who “Don’t Like Luke” anymore. Many of them stepped off the Luke Train with the SUV incident and I don’t think any of Luke’s debate performances thus far will convince them that he’s anything but a smirking, lying, big-headed twit who still has not learned his lesson.

I think in this unusual set of circumstances, the incumbent may have just as many votes to “win over” as the challenger. Maybe even more.

EdHeath said...

I still think that people without prior strong opinions prefer to watch Luke talk than Mark. Both make funny mistakes - I think Mark called Mark Roosevelt "Lieutenant Roosevelt" instead of superintendent. And I heard Luke say “development broom”. Desantis crinkles his forehead when he concentrates, I think, or perhaps when he’s nervous, giving rise to the several comments about him looking like he is about to cry. Luke raises his eyebrows sporadically, and of course sounds like a kid.

Of course, if anyone is listening to the totality of the debates, they should be catching the fact the Luke has ducked several questions, simply refused to answer them. Bob Mayo’s first question in the Heinz Center debate stands out. That should be far more important than Luke’s appeal as a person, someone you might want to share a beer with at a cookout.

To be sure, Mark has harped on the “gift” Luke received in being allowed to play golf with the big boys, and it could be argued Luke received nothing of actual substance, so gift might be the wrong word. That’s an important distinction which the ethics board got, but the ethics board also did not let Luke off Scot free. The fact that they recommended changes in the ethics code is an indication that the Mayor found a technicality to excuse his behavior. At least the Mayor has stopped sounding happy when he says that he thinks the Ethics Board is so important he was the first person to appear before it. Its not a good thing to be called before the Ethics Board, Mayor.

I think you are on to something, Char. The coverage of the Mayor by the press has been so uniformly negative that I think it has eroded a lot of his voting base. Luke actually needs to put DeSantis away in the debates or through advertising, and just hasn’t. There’s polling going on now, but I haven’t heard any results so far. The mystery is how the African American vote will go, whether Desantis’ proposal for a minority development partnership will out weigh his call for Nate Harper’s suspension. On the other hand, the Mayor’s statement that he wants more African American cops and firemen is pretty insulting, I would think.

Char said...

And you know, Ed, Luke has admitted he has done some recent polling. He was asked about the results by Honsberger (I think)and gave some lame excuse as to why he didn't want to share them.

Now you know if the results had been good ..... Luke would have been shouting them from the rooftops simultaneously rubbing the Post Gazette's nose in them.

But he's been quiet.

I'm not at all suggesting Luke will lose. I am thinking that the results might be close enough to be an embarrassment to even Luke.

As for the black vote..... they are not as determined, consistent and reliable of a voting block as are the seniors. And if they happen to be a key demographic this time around ......Luke has dissed them multiple times in his 13 month tenure.

Oh yea, Luke likes to trot Harper out as proof of his "inclusiveness". But I think your average African-American in 2007 knows patronizing behavior when he sees it.

CapitolMAN said...

It's debate fatigue, Ed. Also, it's easier to blog on Sunday than Tuesday night.

To Schultzie:
Luke is like the PC in the Mac commercial that needs to be rebooted.

I think DeSantis had the most memorable line of the debate when Luke asked him how he expected to work with all these big-time Democratic politicos. DeSantis quipped, "I don't care what politicians think about me."

Matt H said...

I didn't watch it. No blogging about it for me.

Richmond K. Turner said...

Two things, Ed. First of all, I didn't blog on it because I'm just too damn busy. I watched the debate, and I even had things I wanted to say. But the commute is killing me here in my new city, and it's very hard to find the time.

Secondly, I do give Luke Ravenstahl a great deal of credit. Based on what we saw during the primary, I really thought that he would avoid debating DeSantis, as he clearly avoided debating Bill Peduto.

But he didn't, and there have been plenty of debates. So good for him.

And I never predicted that Luke would do poorly at these debates. In fact, my memory during the debate ducking days of the primary is that I said something along the lines of, "why isn't he just agreeing to debate? He would probably do far better conventional wisdom thinks he would."

So there were no "wipe the floor" predictions coming from me.

EdHeath said...

Yeah, Admiral, one reason why I didn't specify who said what was I was too lazy and uninspired and uninspirational to look. It seems to take me about an hour or so to do one of these posts. I usually wait until my wife goes to bed, so I give up an hour or so of sleep. My commute is fairly short, btw. Still, I’m not going to post so much after the election. Anyway I didn't feel like fumbling through old blog entries for who said what, even though I had vague sense that I ought to. I may have been one of the people predicting DeSantis would out debate Ravenstahl. Obviously I was wrong, at least two people I know of have expressed a preference for Ravenstahl over DeSantis. But someone recently called me thoughtful and honest, so I thought I would give the Mayor credit in a blog where I thought credit is due. And then rake him over the coals for other things. Heh.